• Melo Acuna

Foreign Secretary Locsin cites UNCLOS to keep peace and stability in the South China Sea

Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin calls on countries not to escalate tension in the South China Sea

MANILA – Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. said the country’s concerned about the developments in the South China Sea as the Chinese People’s Liberation Army conducts its military exercises until Sunday in the waters off the Paracel Islands. It will be recalled Viet Nam also has its claims on the islands.

In a video statement released Friday afternoon, Secretary Locsin said vessels will not be allowed near the area and should “follow the guidance of the commanding Chinese ship on the site.”

He said he instructed his staff to check on the coordinates as countries which may not have the capacity to respond the what he termed as challenge to their territorial integrity “must aim for accuracy in law and in geography/”

Secretary Locsin said if the Chinese naval exercises would be confined to the coordinates mentioned in the advisory, they will not impinge on Philippine territory.

“These exercises are taking place in Gisha Islands in the Paracels over which Viet Nam claims sovereignty, he said. He added should the exercises go beyond the area and “spill over to Philippine territory, then China is forewarned that it will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate.”

He explained the Philippines protested the establishment of Sisha and Nansha districts under Sansha City which he said as null and void ab initio “for being devoid of bases in international law. He referred to the claims founded on historical narratives and historical names because “they open themselves to error unless the real purpose is to excuse and challenge mistakes that may overtime harden into rights.”

Secretary Locsin added one would think military exercises would be in compliance with the spirit of friendly cooperation that China has encourage everyone to take. He added if the purpose is to establish a perennial and unchallenged presence, the possibility exists that it may turn to their right. China, as any other country is entitled to invoke freedom of navigation in its military exercises but the same freedom requires straight and uninterrupted voyage.

Against this backdrop, Secretary Locsin said the Philippines look at China as the Philippines’ nearest and biggest trading partner. He added China’s presence and participation is important to the any post-COVID-19 recovery in the Philippines’, region’s and global economy.

He called on parties to refrain from escalation tension and follow the responsibilities provided in international law, with special emphasis on UNCLOS.

“We urge them to adhere to the rule of law and their commitments to international instruments such as the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea particularly the exercise of self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability especially in this pandemic,” he said.

Secretary Locsin said the Philippines has continuously protested the violations of international legal obligations and commitments and strongly condemn the conduct of activities in the South China Sea within the Philippines’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction “including waters off Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal.” (Melo M. Acuña)

Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin. (Screen grab from his video message on YouTube)

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